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Vacation Constipation

Your Colon: Know The Basics

By October 20, 2008 5 Comments

What is your gut, what does it look like, and why oh why does it have poo stuck in there while you travel?


Meet the colon. This is your large intestine, the last part of your digestive tract. This is where your poop camps out until excreted. Poop consists of undigested foods and mucus (a slippery, slimy bodily excretion in order to slip the poop through easily). The brown color is from a combination of bile (a fat emulsifier) and bilirubin (yellow breakdown product formed from dead red blood cells).

After your small intestine absorbs all of the vitamins, minerals and energy from the foods you’ve eaten, the remainder moves on into the colon and, like a cart at the top of a roller-coaster, the poo slides down like sludge into the colon. But as it moves onward, it solidifies through the ascending, transverse and descending colon. This is because water is drawn out for reabsorption. Normally, your poop won’t be too soft or too hard once it’s ready for excretion by the rectum. But as we all know, that isn’t always the case!

There are many reasons for this. First off, since your colon’s main function is to reabsorb water for the body, you must be hydrated enough to have regular bowel movements. This will enable enough mobility for waste to move through the system. Additionally, the types of foods you eat will drastically effect the frequency, quantity, and quality of your poop. Yep– your poop can have quality. The best types are those that are semi-soft, snake-like and have little odor. Now, of course, poop should smell (an evolutionary means to prevent humans from eating their waste); however, there is a difference between “a little smell” and “a foul, abominable, repulsive and revolting stench.” Usually, the latter will be a result of poop festering in the colon for days at a time. This occurs when there is little fiber in the diet, and many processed, refined foods. A sedentary lifestyle will also promote colon-stagnation. When waste is not expelled, it has more time to produce harmful bacteria in the gut, which could result in gag-reflex bathroom odors.

What to look for. Yes. Observe, scrutinize and smell your poop. Drop your head down into the bowl and look to see if there are any undigested food particles in your feces. Some major ones will include seeds, nuts, corn and beans because all of these foods have high fiber content and an undigested polysaccharide called cellulose. Color will change depending upon intake, too.

Beets may change the brown to red/purple. Artificial food coloring in some processed foods can offer an array of colors. “NERDS” and “NOW and LATERS” are not from mother earth, and your body will excrete is as such.

An informative book, “What is your poo telling you?” is written by a gastroenterologist and a physiologist. It may be helpful in deciphering the health of your fecal waste, which can tell you a bit about your digestive tract.

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